Survival is fitness by definition!

Threat Simulation in Business

Threat Simulation in Business – a lesson from biology!

Everybody who has ever been part of managing or running a business is aware of the value of feedbacks specially the ones provided by prospective customers.
Usually (or should I say traditionally) products are being developed and shipped then feedbacks are gathered and evaluated.
The results of that evaluation will ultimately impact decision making for the future of the business.
This evaluation process has many names but more often is called a postmortem process.
Postmortem is often a very painful process. Product is already shipped or milestone has already been achieved (or we have failed to achieve) therefore it leaves very little motivation for team members to participate and provide honest and unbiased feedback. Even in a perfect postmortem world where the feedbacks are valid and insights are valuable it is usually too late to make up for the damage caused during the process in case of failure.
Many people have tried to improve the process and minimize the risk by shortening the delivery cycle which results in rapid feedback cycles which in turn improves the results and increases customer satisfaction.
Agile and lean methodologies are among these schools of thought.
Some smart people like Gary Klein have proposed a premortem process that minimizes the risk of going through a business process blindly and evaluate the results by the end.
Gary says “By making it safe for dissenters who are knowledgeable about the undertaking and worried about its weaknesses to speak up, you can improve a project’s chances of success”.
In another interview, Gary states

The premortem technique is a sneaky way to get people
to do contrarian, devil’s advocate thinking without encountering resistance.
If a project goes poorly, there will be a lessons-learned session that looks at what went wrong and why the project failed—like a medical postmortem.
Why don’t we do that up front? Before a project starts, we should say,
“We’re looking in a crystal ball, and this project has failed; it’s a fiasco.
Now, everybody, take two minutes and write down all the reasons why you think the project failed.”

Guy Kawasaki, one of my favorite authors and the author of “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions” has also mentioned the importance of a premortem process in success of a business in the book and in a few of his talks.

Interestingly though there is a similar mechanism in our body called DREAMING!
The biological function of dreaming based on Threat Simulation theory by Antti Revonsuo & Katja Valli is the
simulation of threatening events and the repeated rehearsal of threat perception and threat
avoidance responses.
This threat simulation hypothesis is supported by
several lines of empirical evidence on dreaming, including normative dream content,
recurrent dreams, nightmares, post-traumatic dreams and children’s dreams.

It’s uncanny how similar the business premortem process and function of dreaming are.
Similar to dreaming where we rehearse possible threatening events that could hinder our survival in awaken life, in a business premortem we intend to identify the risks that could possibly threaten our business and get prepared to mitigate those risks during the execution.

On a not extremely unrelated note, I believe It is an interesting point of view to look at businesses as living organisms.
One idea I have had for quite a while along the same line is that what if we could use
genetic algorithms to model a business where the possible business models would form the genes
and an optimum business model could be identified by several rounds of mutation and crossing over those genes.
Food for thought!

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